Recession Proof Your Business – 10 Steps For Success!
Two years prior to this recession our business took a turn for the worst and we almost closed our doors for good. My wife and I own a small custom made window treatment and bedding manufacturing business with 5 employees and work exclusively for Interior Decorators and Designers alike. Since the time we opened our doors in 1999 we have had no time to breathe! We were always back logged 6 to 8 weeks and with out warning the orders stopped!!! No faxes, no phone calls and no explanation! We visited all of our accounts to see if we were not servicing there needs or if they were sending work else where but this was not the case at all.
They were in the same boat we were in! We had to lay off all of our employees and slowly went by our savings. We were forced to take loans out just to pay the mortgage and have food on the table. After 6 very long months the orders started coming in just like some one turned a switch on! Our employees went back to work and it was business as usual, except now we are in a financial hole and cannot provide to take another blow! We received a huge wake up call and new that if we do not have a good back up plan we will lose everything we have worked for, our home, the business, everything! A very scary thought… So my wife and I implemented a back up plan just in case business showed signs of slowing down again. If we had not had this plan in place we would have closed our doors… We turned our business around in a recession! Here are 10 steps you need to take to recession proof your business.
Step 1) Make a brochure that explains what you do and the sets you provide and target your customers! Hand deliver to local areas and talk to your possible customers. This is no different from how politicians get votes! I don’t care if you only sell a $10.00 pizza! Keep track of your sales and talk to your customers! Brochures with pictures are a visual description and need to be sent to all customers who have used your sets in the past in addition as possible customers.
Step 2) Keep track of who is ordering from you and make sure you log name, telephone and addresses. Why do most businesses fail today? It’s very simple! Because they never followed up on service or tracked who there customers are! If you think because they ordered from you once they will order again. Wrong. Thousands of small businesses open and needlessly close every year just because they did not follow up with there customers or listen to what they have to say about the product or service. If you do not get feedback from your customers you cannot correct possible problems. The worst mistake you can make is to think you satisfied your customer because they did not approach or call you with a problem. Most people never will! And you will never hear from them again. Repeat customers are your best customers!
Step 3) Advertise your product or service. This is a double edge sword! You may not be able to provide it but if you sit back and do nothing you will fail! You need to be smart on where to place your adds. Monthly small adds in your local news paper under “Dial a service” or small weekly news papers are a good start but stay away from radio until your cash flow has increased. Radio is referred to as “Passive advertising” and is effective, but if you can only provide one method choose print and always include a picture!. Time line your advertising and make sure you give customers a reason by offering a sale or discount.
Step 4) Sign up for home shows in your area. Home shows are mainly held in spring & fall seasons and are a very useful tool to connect to possible customers. This is where a professionally made brochure on good quality paper with several pictures and a well written description will make the difference! Have a date book ready and offer a free consultation, free product, free calculate, etc. You need to get names and phone numbers!
Step 5) Listen to customers needs! My wife and I had rented a booth at The Great North East Home Show in Albany N.Y. Several possible customers approached us curious about cellular shades and wood blinds. Since we manufactured draperies and fabric roman shades they naturally assumed we sold cellular and wood blinds in addition. The fact is we did not! But we set up in home appointments and the very next day set up an account with Kirsch and had them ship demo books for us to show our possible customers. We sold 20 cellular shades, 4 wood blinds and 3 metal mini blinds, 3 roller shades and 2 vertical blinds. We had no idea how popular these items were! The point I’m trying to get across is not be so quick to turn down a sale because you cannot be bothered finding the product! There were plenty of competitors at this home show but we were the only ones who offered free in home consultation and free installation!
Step 6) Have a website! I have 3 websites and the total cost per month is $30.00! Making your own website is easy! Make sure you include your website in all advertisements.
Step 7) Diversify your business! The only reason why we are nevertheless in business today and thriving by a recession! Drastic time need drastic measures! We changed our company from a wholesale business that only worked for Interior Designers to a complete retail store! Now instead of just manufacturing window treatments and bedding products we now sell everything related to window fact like decorative wood poles and hardware, cellular shades, wood blinds, vertical blinds, mini blinds, and wood shutters. We also additional several lines of fabric companies and characterize hundreds of fabric books for our customers to choose from in addition as a complete line of decorative fabric trims. We put a divider wall up that separated our workroom from the showroom but customers can nevertheless look in and see the factory.
Step 8) Offer a service or product for free! Now I know what your thinking, how can I make money if I’m giving it away! Well your not going to make money if it sits on a shelf or no one is walking by your doors either! We offer free in home consultation and it’s on all our advertising and on our website. 80% of the time we make a sale! We do most quotes by email. This has been a powerful tool for us! Many times the fiber or style the customer has picked out is to expensive and a deal breaker. Having the customers email address allows us to select different fiber or styles that are less expensive and email them pictures and new pricing with in there budget with out wasting our, or the customers time. No one will tell you how much there willing to use until the quote is to high! Your job is to find ways to cut corners and nevertheless make a profit and keep your customer satisfied at the same time, not an easy task but some money is better than no money!
Step 9) Don’t mind your own business! Find out every thing you can about your competitor. Who uses them, what products and sets they provide, what they charge, pricing, sales, everything! Now find out what they do not offer or areas where you can beat certain price points or service and run with it!
Step 10) Times have changed, has your business changed with the times? The edges are not lending money, charge card companies are lowering credit limits, companies are laying off, and the news reminds us every day how bad thing are! As a business owner you need to change with the times or close your doors… We had to make a 360 degree turn around in order to survive. We researched products that our competitors do not offer, or are a better value, offer free sets and work twice as hard! The good news is that people nevertheless have money and the majority of the country is working! But, everyone has tightened there belts and want the best deals for there money. Re-think! Change! Don’t down size, diversify!